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Clashing Blues

November 11, 2010 6 comments

Hold me back, I’m getting ready to RUMBLE !!!!

First, though, let me wish all veterans everywhere a Happy Veterans Day. You’ve served us proudly and selflessly and we will never forget you.

That said…..

I am feeling a profound sense of disappointment and disillusionment today and it seems everywhere I look that feeling is compounded.

I grabbed the blue pillows from the chairs out in back and brought them inside so the pressure washer guy won’t spray bleach on them. I tossed them on the couch with the other pillows and the colors clashed horribly. Any of those blues on its own is fine but together they are repulsive.

The television was playing a movie about St. Francis of Assisi and the part I caught was a Catholic church service where the hymn they were singing was a chant in parallel 5ths. Now I know why the rule against them exists in music. My eardrums buzzed painfully.

The first few posts I saw on Facebook this morning were about our President backing down on his pledge to keep tax cuts in place for all but the very rich. Trying to cheer myself up, I Googled GLBT veterans’ organizations to look for something to post about proud men and women who have served in silence and only came across sites that had little substantial information surrounded by pictures of hot half-naked guys.

I am feeling betrayed by everyone I try to stand up for. I see Democrats as people trying to do the right thing in the right way but today they look weak to me. The church I wish could see past its own prejudices only comes down harder in dissonant opposition. The men and women I champion as pillars of integrity turn out to be nothing more than what people claim them to be. When I saw a pile of Silly Bands on the sidewalk just now, all I could think of was New Kids on the Block, INXS, Hanson….silly bands. Save for the bucolic scene of the dad next door playing football with his daughter in the front yard, this day would seem a wash.

And now I think of my friend, Keith, newly arrived in Afghanistan for his 3rd (?) tour of duty in this never ending debacle while our former President, the one who got us into this mess, is parading around the country bragging about the crimes he committed while in office. I am feeling ashamed of what Keith went over there to represent, this country of supposed virtue and openness. It’s bad enough that he has to be there at all when so many of us find it hard to support his efforts in our hearts. We want him home.

Not one of us doesn’t have the blues lately and they’re all different shades. We can’t even be bummed out together because “your blues ain’t like mine”. I wish I could write something that lifts us up, that transcends this color-clash, but I can’t seem to find the words. Nobody seems able to, not even the man whose oratory so inspired us only a few years ago.

Where are the words? Where are the deeds? Where is the integrity?

We’ve always found reason to be proud of our country in the past, and I know we’ll find it again. But this place of unnerving indigo blindness feels hopeless and dark. The Chilean miners probably had more light half a mile underground than we do under blazing azure skies.

How do we learn to keep our spirits up like they did and not succumb to the clashing blues?

Following the Trash

October 6, 2010 2 comments

First it was a plastic bag, floating spastically on the wacky currents. Then it was a newspaper ad, whipping back and forth and finally settling down in the grass. Another bag, another piece of paper… where was it all coming from?

As I caught up with the traffic in front of me, I saw that there was a “Waste Management” truck leaking its wretched refuse through a hole in its top. Every few seconds, a remnant would escape and dance on the choppy draft as though announcing, “Free at last! Free at last!” before falling to the ground and becoming part of the roadside landscape.

At first I was mad, but soon found myself becoming mesmerized by the scene, waiting for the next prisoner to make a run for it. I thought if I got close enough I might see a little toy soldier up there reaching down into the hole to help the next one out….  I guess I saw “Toy Story 3” too many times.

I wasn’t really on my way anywhere. I was just riding around trying to decide where to go to kill some time, so when the trash truck pulled into a shopping center I automatically followed it, going wherever it led me, hypnotically unaware that this wasn’t where I’d intended to go.

When I snapped out of my trance, it occurred to me that this is just what’s been happening to Americans lately. We’ve lost all sense of direction and seem willing to follow whoever says “I know the way — follow me!” the loudest. I had so aimlessly followed the trail of trash that I had completely lost my bearings and had no idea where I was.

I, too, had been seduced by the steady stream of garbage being fed to the citizens of our country by politicians whose greatest aim is to mesmerize the voters with bags emptied of their gleaming promises and flashy newspaper and TV ads that dump rubbish about their opponents all over our once fruited plain. America has become one big spewing trash truck, and like the characters in TS3, we’re all just being dragged along the conveyor belt toward the incinerator, like the Tennessee man whose house burned to the ground while the fire department watched because the man had an unpaid $75.00 fee outstanding.

When did Americans get so “trashy”? When did we decide that loving your neighbor as yourself was only valid if that neighbor could show his papers, or prove that he’d paid his bill in order to prevent his life story from going up in flames? When did we decide that people who can get themselves on TV for any reason are worthy of copious monetary compensation and  our undying adulation while people who get up every morning and work long into the night are not worth the measly $7.25 per hour we grudgingly offer them?

Little Trixie is pissed. She’s been having tantrums all day. This is her future I’m talking about and it’s hard raising her to believe that there are still good people in the world — kind, considerate, compassionate people — when all she sees as she rides along in her tiny car seat is all this crap whipping by her window.

So when you see the trash start flying, don’t just get mesmerized by it. Follow that truck until you catch up with it and tell the driver to SHUT HIS HOLE!

Thank you very much. Today’s public service announcement is brought to you by sugar, caffeine, and too much unsupervised time.

What Could Possibly Be So Important??

July 19, 2010 3 comments

Yeah, yeah, yeah…blah, blah, blah…. That’s what most people say when someone tells them what to do. And it’s not just teenagers, though we tend to think so.

Part of the privilege of being an adult  is being able to justify behaviors we tell our children not to do. After all, doesn’t adulthood mean we are competent or superior at everything?

I’m one of those adults sometimes — rebellious when confronted, careless when I think no one is watching, resentful of responsibility — and I’ve been given a gift through grace to learn a valuable lesson without having to suffer bodily injury. I had my comeuppance this past Saturday morning.

As I was returning home from a pet sitting run just before 9 a.m., I pulled up at an intersection behind a Chrysler 300 that had stopped at an odd angle, as though it had come from the opposite lane. I was just a mile from home and was looking forward to breakfast and quiet time with my little family.

The light turned green and the car in front jerked his wheel and started forward. Within 300 yards, he was 250 yards ahead of me as his car leaned around the sharp curve. A car in the other lane leaned away from him. I’ve seen people speed on our back country highway so I just shook my head. But as he came back into view, I saw him veer slowly into the other lane again, nearly clipping a car this time. He corrected and jerked back into his lane.

As I approached the entrance to my neighborhood, I made a decision to follow the car. I wanted to make sure that this mile of near misses was a fluke.

Two more miles of swerving and veering up the road, he stopped at the intersection with the main highway, well behind the car in front of him. I pulled up behind him. I took my camera phone and snapped a picture of the car and took down the number on the license plate that was propped in the back window. We pulled out onto the highway and since traffic was light, he took off like a shot. I chanced my own safety to keep up, though a safe distance behind.

“No, NO, NOO!! ” I shouted, and “There he goes!” as I watched him drive up over a curb and then violently pull back off it. He managed again to not wreck the car.

But he still kept doing whatever he was doing to distract himself from his #1 task — driving safely! He swerved back and forth across the 3 lane highway, nearly repeating the curb maneuver. When he turned up a smaller road I continued to follow him.

Bicyclists and pedestrians populated the bike path that ran along this road and I was not at all confident that he wouldn’t drive right up there and hit them. I said prayers under my breath. He turned onto a narrower road. By now, I think he knew I was following him.

Finally, he pulled into a gas station. I turned at the intersection and was able to get a front view of the car, with its bright green ’08 marked on the windshield. This was a grown man and possibly a car dealer.

I continued up the road to the Sheriff’s Dept.  but saw no signs of activity. I had no idea what to do.

Finally, I drove home, shaken as though I had almost been the victim of his dozen or more near misses. I had to do something.

At the suggestion of a friend, I called 911. They directed me to the Sheriff’s Dept. dispatcher who took down all the information I had collected. She asked whether I wanted to be contacted if anything happened or if I wanted to remain anonymous. I decided for some reason that the latter was safer.

Reporting this driver made me feel a little better. At least I had made someone aware to watch out for him. But in the end, I don’t think anything could be done until the police saw him driving this way or he finally hit another car. I was so frustrated that I couldn’t do anything more about it myself.

A friend shared with me the story of her parents nearly being killed by a distracted driver 4 years ago. Extreme bodily injury has since taken a back seat to post-traumatic emotional effects. The driver who hit them changed her story 3 times, trying to figure out which form of distraction would get her in the least trouble. Though there was a negligence settlement, the real damage could not be eradicated by any sum of money.

We’ve always been warned that drunk drivers were the ones to watch out for, but now impairment takes all forms, from the obscene number of bells & whistles that equip modern cars to the gateway habit of talking on cell phones that leads to the higher risk behavior of communicating via text message. The more we get away with without consequences, the greater the level of risk we are willing to attempt.

The following video PSA is extremely graphic, depicting the mindless actions of a distracted driver and the aftermath.  I had seen this before, but when I watched it again after the incident Saturday it held completely new meaning for me.

Please take heed, people. None of us — not experienced drivers nor responsible parents — can get away with driving distracted for long.

Be careful out there…. It’s only a matter of time…..

Flushing Integrity

November 3, 2009 5 comments

me_bsPut on your helmets, people…. It’s gonna be a rough ride!

Picture this: Someone contacts you, having become aware of your work. Impressed, they would like to hire you to do a job. You put together a presentation, travel a considerable distance, provide a quote that you believe accurately reflects the time, energy, and experience that will be involved in the effort and the client says, “Let’s do it!”

You are happy that, after a period away from this work, the investment you’ve made in learning the technology that is necessary to be successful in this day and age is beginning to show some results. In anticipation of beginning this job, you go out and further invest in the clothing, materials, even childcare, that will allow you to get started.

Imagine, then, the night before you are to show up for work, the employer calls and says, “Someone just walked in, sight unseen, and offered to do the same job for half the price. Are you willing to do the job for that? I’d still rather have you do it but not if I can get someone else to do it for less.”

So what do you do? Nothing has been signed and only a smile and a handshake have sealed the deal.

In good faith I agree to the terms. Who am I to complain in an economy that is leaving people homeless? I’m  lucky to have the opportunity, I rationalize to myself.

The next morning, I walk into the building and see a toilet sitting in the middle of the entryway. Bad sign. No plumbing. Brown paper on the windows attempts to shade the heat of the Florida sun to little effect. No electricity means fumes will not be circulating. I set up anyway.

I stare at the wall and all I can see is betrayal. I roll gray, lifeless, stinky primer onto the wall. I climb to a precarious height to cover up mistakes left by a careless contractor. I have no vision for this one. It looks dead to me.

I start thinking about that toilet. I once remodeled a bathroom using a book of instructions and all the right tools and fixtures. Someone with more experience might have done a better job but nothing leaked and the room looked much better than it had before. It hadn’t taken much to become proficient at that skill.

Now, here I am about to create a 150 sq.ft. work of art that will be seen by thousands and hopefully add incentive for them to return again and again to enjoy the ambience, yet I have agreed to be paid less to do so than the young fellow listening to head banging rap music and yelling over to his contractor buddy that he has “20 beers in the fridge so the game’s at my house tonight!” for installing a sink, toilet, and mirror for the comfort of customers as required by law for such an establishment. My contribution has no such requirement.

I did not become an artist to make money. I did it because I needed to share my imagination and soul with others. Deep inside, exchanging those for money feels dirty to me, yet it is how our society has agreed to acknowledge value. In asking for an amount of money that reflected my efforts in a commercial setting, a money-making establishment, my intent had less to do with receiving compensation for myself than with attempting to assign a fair monetary value to something whose worth cannot easily be measured in dollars. I did it to assign value to the work of all artists who are willing to invest their time and souls in such a way.

truckAs I packed up my equipment this morning and declared the birth of this project aborted, I realized that the only difference between throwing money down the toilet that would soon be in the building’s bathroom and the one that would have been my project is the fact that the literal one could actually flush…at least until it backed up from choking on all that money…

I would have signed a guarantee that the only overflowing mine would ever do would be with the light of my soul….

I Just Wanna Die…..

July 16, 2009 1 comment

bs3Okay, it’s not as bad as it sounds so don’t go ratting me out to the suicide hotline. It’s actually a plea to allow nature take its course in my life in as undisturbed a way as possible.

Congress is wrestling with the health care reform package put forth by the Obama administration that promises to straighten out and streamline our medical system. Health care for everyone and everyone for health care! Everybody should be able (and have the right AND the will) to live forever!

I don’t know about you, but it strikes me that the more humanity evolves, the more we lose our mental and emotional ability to keep up with it. Technology zooms right along even as we continue to try to legislate morality. Education, as defined by our system of higher learning, does nothing to help us cope with the fact that not everyone is educated, ambitious, worldly, or responsible. Some of us are just idiots who are moved around like pawns in a giant chess game being played by a bunch of PhDs who have never spent a day working at a gas station, or slaughtering chickens, or picking lettuce. They simply get their biggest thrill in life by creating strategy about how the world should be without really experiencing how it is and they wonder why the pawns are turning on them.

My title refers to the absurd idea that we mere mortals have the ability or the right to keep people from dying. We have created a society that lives a great deal longer than it did a century ago, maybe even a generation ago, and what do we have to show for it? New diseases that are created by the very medicines we are using to try to prolong life along with overwhelmed nursing homes, families, and financial systems that are struggling to keep up with the new demands.

So when did we all decide that dying wasn’t okay? I learned yesterday that a fellow who graduated from my high school took his life at age 47. I didn’t know him nor do I know the details of his decision, but part of me envies him. Suicide is usually seen as an act of cowardice, even a sin. I can understand the angst of the people left behind, as though the result of the deliberateness of the death is somehow different from that of an accident, but maybe we are creating a culture where the choice to die is being taken away from us.

Who is really benefitting from our extended life expectancies? I’m at an age where most of my friends are dealing with aging parents whose real contributions have long since been realized. Now, many of them sit around just waiting to die, even as doctors poke and prod and look for ways to increase their “quality of life”. We, in turn, sit around wringing our hands, wondering how to make them happy. Without the aid of chemistry, maybe many of them would have moved on by now, still somewhat in control of their destinies.

I don’t mean to be callous or wish anything less than happiness on anyone, but I’m beginning to feel like happiness is not in our hands anymore though there are plenty of pills we can take to make sure we are happy for the sake of others, whether we are in charge of it or not.

I just don’t think that the simple ease or attractiveness or affordability of health care is going to make people behave any differently. Those inclined to take care of themselves will continue to do so and those who aren’t, won’t. It’s simple human nature and it can’t be dictated.

Maybe the folks who don’t seem to be making much headway in their right-to-life campaigns could pick up a new tune and start fighting for right-to-death. After all, death is a part of life, right?

Expectations of the Rainbow….

June 19, 2009 1 comment

bs3I haven’t done a good political rant in a long time, but after a conversation yesterday and some recent events, I feel compelled to figure out what in heck’s going on with the blasted rainbow…

The world is a mess right now. The war in the middle east is still going on, the global economy is collapsing, unemployment is rampant, it hasn’t stopped raining for weeks in the north and full-on summer has arrived in the south well before the solstice. We could really stand a break in the pattern already…

President Obama campaigned on a promise of “Change” after 8 years of stormy “WTF?” politics, and many of us were just looking for the sun to come out again and put some color back in our pallid national cheeks and deliver a fresh breath to clear our politically pleuritic lungs (ironic that we chose a smoker to deliver it) but so far it’s still pouring outside, we aren’t breathing any more easily, and our pallor is no more robust . 

The phrase that came up in conversation yesterday was “reaching out and grabbing onto the rainbow” — pretty, promising, exciting. But the rainbow has lost its luster in this long period of global malaise, and most assuredly, the pot at the end has been purged of its gold. I suppose it’s available for anyone who doesn’t even have one to piss in. That’s what we get for daring to have such high expectations of the rainbow…. 

And then there’s the other rainbow, the one whose promise became blindingly bright when Mr. Obama was elected with his pledges to a community that worked tirelessly to get him into office to eradicate the hateful rhetoric that has held them in spiritual bondage for the past 8 years and beyond: the gay community. This week, under great pressure from some increasingly pissed off constituents, the president signed legislation that would protect the same-sex partners of federal employees in a variety of areas except for health care and pension benefits. I hate to look a gift horse in the mouth, but in this instance, I’m not sure its the mouth we’re dealing with. Thanks for tossing us a carrot, sir. 

I want to believe that things will get better and I do think progress is happening on many fronts. But once an engine finally turns over and starts running, it becomes maddeningly frustrating when the car can only manage 10 mph (Don’t even get me started on the car industry….).

Does any of this directly affect me in a meaningful way? Not really. But it affects those around me, it permeates the airwaves, and the psychic energy that creates change is stifled in a bubble. Looks neat from the outside — if only we could figure out how to let it out (see: Simpsons Movie).

So the next time you see a rainbow, go ahead and try to grab it. Just be careful about what’s actually in the pot — the color might be gold, but it’s probably kinda splashy….

EXTRA! EXTRA! Mayor Nearly Arrested!

March 5, 2009 1 comment

bs3These days, it seems corruption is everywhere, even in our own front yards. 

In the past I have written about my 12-year-old lab, Murphy, the Mayor of our street, (Now THAT’S the Life!) doing her rounds, walking the neighborhood and smelling the roses (or, the equivalent for her — dog poop). Though there is a leash law, people seem pretty okay with letting her mosey around on her own. 

On Thursday mornings I like to stretch those boundaries a little. Wacky Jacky, the Weimaraner, needs a lot more exercise than Murph does so I justify breaking the rules a little bit, letting him out to run up and jack_jaildown the street with me as I gather up the trash cans and recycling bins of my neighbors, figuring that a good deed deserves some license for Jacky to roam. 

This morning, a white van was parked down the street. I had no idea it belonged to the DOG CATCHER! I’ve never even seen them before and I was caught red-handed! Wacky zoomed right past her….

Hillsborough County Animal Control must have finally been responding to numerous calls that have been placed about the Siberian Husky that lives across the street. His owners leave him tied up outside for days at a time while they are out of town, and as any true Husky will do, he howls his head off for hours. At night, rather than walking him on a leash, they just let him run and he darts in front of cars and in and out of bushes, scaring everybody half to death. 

The officer yelled across the street to me, “Did you know that you are in violation of the Hillsborough County ordinance that prohibits dogs from running around without a leash?” I held up a dog biscuit and explained contritely that I was trying to get him to come in.

She replied, “It doesn’t look like you’re trying very hard. It looks like you’re trimming the bushes!” I further explained that if he escapes I have better success getting him to come to me than if I chase him.

“Next time it will be a $175.00 fine!” I redoubled my efforts and he came to me right away. Fortunately he had gotten all his running out of his system by that time.

murph_nabbed1But then it hit me — THE MAYOR WAS STILL OUT! I furtively peeked inside the window of the van, hoping they hadn’t picked Murphy up yet. Then I saw her sauntering down the street toward me. Adrenaline fueled my pace and I snuck up beside her and ushered her back to the house before the gestapo could see us. PHEW! Of course Murph had been swimming in the pond but I didn’t care if she was dirty. I shoved her inside.

I had dodged the bullet this time but as I thought about it, I started to understand how corruption happens: a little at a time. I am as apt as anyone to stretch the rules when I take unfair advantage of the good will of my neighbors on occasion. I grew up on a wide open farm in New Hampshire and spent most of my youth chasing animals who had overstepped the boundaries of their enclosures and I know that they are more likely to return through enticement rather than pursuit, but I also know how important it is to their spirits to get out and run around a little. But it is just that kind of thinking that adds to my own corruption and makes it easier to break the rules next time, only with less guilt.

I appreciate the work of Hillsborough County Animal Control since their work is usually on behalf of really severe cases. But I realize that, as with the neighbors across the street, when I break the rules I am giving permission to those who would break them much more significantly. 

Thank you, Officer, for letting my dogs off with a warning. I’ll try not to let it happen again. Really…..

Categories: Life, That's Total BS!
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